Ex-Google engineer charged with theft of AI tech for Chinese firms

A former Google engineer has been indicted for stealing trade secrets to benefit two companies in China. This case adds to a series of actions by US authorities to prevent the outflow of critical technological information to China.

A federal jury in San Francisco charged the 38-year-old Chinese national, Linwei Ding, with four counts of theft of trade secrets.

The statement of indictment stated that the stolen trade secrets were critical to Google’s AI prowess, involving the specialized hardware and software that power the company’s supercomputing centers.

“The trade secrets contain detailed information about the architecture and functionality of GPU and TPU chips and systems, the software that allows the chips to communicate and execute tasks, and the software that orchestrates thousands of chips into a supercomputer capable of executing at the cutting edge of machine learning and AI technology,” said the statement from the US District Court for the Northern District of California.    

The US struggle to limit IP theft

Ding uploaded 500 files, most of which contained trade secrets, to the cloud using a multistep scheme to evade detection. According to the indictment, Ding was paid $14,800 per month by a Chinese tech firm while he was still working at Google, according to the indictment.

This follows another similar incident in May 2023, when a former Apple engineer was indicted on five counts related to attempts to steal technology for China, Russia, and Iran. The case focused on technologies linked to autonomous systems, including self-driving cars, with the engineer allegedly fleeing to China after the theft.

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